FOTO Press Statement – BLD Plantation continues to destroy Sarawak peat forests

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On 25th February Sarawak Report published our press statement regarding BLD Plantation’s continued destruction of peat forests near Sibu, in the Malaysian Borneo state of Sarawak. Below is the full statement. Link to the statement on Sarawak Report’s website can be found here.

 

 

After Bunge Limited, one of the world’s largest agribusiness companies, announced last year its suspension of new commercial activity with Malaysian palm oil company BLD Plantation Bhd, BLD’s trading partner Apical Malaysia Sdn Bhd declared earlier this month they would be suspending trade with BLD until the latter addresses the issues brought up against them by Malaysian environmental NGO Friends of the Orangutans Malaysia (FOTO).

This significant action comes after BLD’s peat destroying activities near Sibu violated American headquartered Bunge and Apical’s sustainability policies. According to FOTO other major companies in Asia, Europe and America sourcing and trading palm oil products have been alerted and the NGO’s ally Rainforest Foundation Norway have asked numerous companies if they are in business with BLD.

At this date BLD continues to massively clear carbon-rich peat forests for oil palm agriculture which severely affects the environment and the local communities in BLD’s 20,446 hectares (ha) concession.

“Since year 2000 the amount of peat forest lost in BLD’s Sibu concession has been well over 12,000 ha and before long there might not be any peat forests left in the concession”, attested Upreshpal Singh, FOTO’s Director.

Clearing peat forest for agriculture, especially where it is very deep like in BLD’s concession, has disastrous consequences such as a massive release of carbon dioxide (from peat draining through canals), increased fire risk, and prolonged flooding which will eventually cause the land to be unproductive for agriculture, as has been highlighted in a study by Wetlands International in mid-2015.

In addition to harming the environment BLD’s activities also impact the Iban and Melanau communities whose NCR lands overlap with the company’s concession. According to data provided by the Sarawak Dayak Iban Association (SADIA), the company’s Sibu concession covers about 47% (4,127 ha) of the Iban villagers’ NCR lands in kampung Tutus, one of the affected communities which will bring the case of land-grabbing by BLD to court, scheduled this month. It will not be the first lawsuit BLD will face for land-grabbing allegations by local communities.

Kampung Tutus villagers interviewed by FOTO and SADIA late last year said that their livelihood has been severely affected in many ways by BLD.

According to Upreshpal, FOTO repeatedly contacted the Sarawak chief minister’s office through email after a meeting held in early October 2015 with state premier Tan Sri Adenan Satem to discuss BLD’s transgressions. However, all of the NGO’s emails have been ignored as there appears to be no sign if the chief minister will intervene and stop BLD.

The NGO also contacted banks which had been financing BLD, urging them to investigate their client as BLD’s activities violate sustainable financing commitments made by of several of its financiers.

In early 2015 chief minister Adenan declared “We have enough of that already and we are not going to open up any more [palm oil] plantations”. BLD’s activities are in stark contrast to Tan Sri Adenan’s committment; however the chief minister does not show evidence of his intention to stop BLD from further destruction.

“We are very disappointed we never received any reply from the chief minister’ office when Tan Sri Adenan claims to want to protect Sarawak’s forests. BLD’s unsustainable and destructive activities besmirch Malaysia’s reputation in regard to environment conservation and it looks like it is still business as usual in Sarawak”, concluded Upreshpal.

Malaysian company suspends palm oil trade with BLD

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After Bunge Limited, one of the world’s largest agribusiness companies, announced last year its suspension of new commercial activity with Malaysian palm oil company BLD Plantation Berhad, FOTO has been informed that Apical Malaysia Sdn Berhad declared in early February it will suspend trading with BLD as well until the latter addresses the issues brought up against them by FOTO and our allies.

BLD are still extensively clearing peat swamp forest and land-grabbing local communities in Sarawak, in one of their concession located near Sibu despite our attempts to stop them. No competent authority seems willing to take action.

BLD’s activities violate both Apical and Bunge’s sustainability policies. But they might not be the last to stop buying from BLD, Kirana (BLD’s wholly-owned refinery) or Sunfield Global (trading company buying from BLD)! FOTO and our allies have alerted a number of US and European companies about BLD’s unsustainable activities in Sibu and we will also email Asian companies – with which we suspect BLD is mostly dealing – in this regard very soon.

One step at a time we will continue fighting to make BLD stop!

Shangri-La’s orangutan exploitation to end in April!

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The news we’ve all been waiting for is here! Shangri-la Rasa Ria Resort’s exploitation of orangutans to end in April! Please see the article at this link for more information.

The resort made it look like there are voluntarily ending the exploitation, and we will soon respond to it. But without your support for our campaign we assure you the exploitation would never stop.

In early February one orangutan was sent back to Sepilok.

Our petition will remain open until we know the remaining two infants at the resort are returned to Sepilok in April, and we will inform all supporters and declare victory! In the meantime please sign and share our petition and tweet to Shangri-La.

THANK YOU for your support. Without it this news would never come!

Forest Campaigner – vacancy in FOTO

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Friends of the Orangutans are currently looking to employ a full-time Forest Campaigner. Please see details below:

 

Responsibilities:
• Collect and analyze remote sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS) data from opan source databases
• Create and manipulate GIS data
• Produce detailed map graphics for a diversity of projects using GIS
• Develop, coordinate and manage projects on forest resources management and conservation of orangutan habitat, hard-hitting campaigns including existing ones
• Write news releases, letters to the media for publishing
• Communicate with media outlets, government agencies, zoos, NGOs, etc
• Perform any other duties assigned by the Director

Requirements:

• Bachelor’s degree in forestry/conservation biology/natural resource management or other related field
• Knowledge of principles, practices and application of GIS; representation of synthetic result maps
• Knowledge in remote sensing data and be willing to learn the use of highly specified software (e.g. CLASlite 3.2)
• Expansive knowledge interest in the Malaysian landscape in regards to environment and wildlife conservation, palm oil industry, forest management
• Fervent passion and beliefs in animal rights and environmental issues
• Meticulous and consistent approach to work, and ability to produce quality results
• Minimum 1 year experience in conservation
• Proficient in Bahasa Melayu and English, written and spoken
• Ability to multitask, work independently and meet deadlines with limited supervision
• Willing to relocate and travel, in and outside Malaysia
• Computer proficient
• Commitment to the objectives of the organization
• Applicant must be a Malaysian citizen

How to apply:

•Email us your resume & include a covering letter to explain why you want to be part of Friends of the Orangutans (FOTO), at info@fotomalaysia.org
•Include two (2) contactable referees in your resume.
•Applications without a covering letter and referees will be rejected.
•State your starting expected salary.

Full time position only – on a annual contractual basis
Deadline for application: 25 March 2016
Employment begins in mid-April
Only short-listed candidates will be notified.

 

Alternatively, you may apply through Jobstreet at this link.

http://www.jobstreet.com.my/en/job/2880020

FOTO’s response to greenwashing article by Pierre Bois d’Enghien

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On 22nd January, Mr. Pierre Bois d’Enghien, an RSPO auditor and self-proclaimed “environmental expert” produced an extremely misleading article published by The Star. In it, d’Enghien claims Malaysia’s forests have grown and that “forest loss has effectively fallen to zero”. You can read d’Enghien’s article in full here.

Below is Friends of the Orangutans’ reply to d’Enghien’s piece:

It is with disappointment that we read Pierre Bois D’Enghien’s summary (‘Malaysia is green and growing’, The Star, 22 January) of the Malaysian forest situation as published in the Global Forest Resources Assessment (FRA) 2015 report. D’Enghien implies states that “Malaysia’s forest area is increasing, not decreasing.” This is misleading as researchers and scientists have shown Malaysia as having an extremely high rate of deforestation, which contrasts the claims made by D’Enghien.

Closer inspection of the FRA report by the FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations] shows that the figures have not been prepared by an independent international committee, but rather by the Malaysian government. In view of long-standing concerns about greenwashing by the Malaysian government, it is especially important that claims about the Malaysian rainforest are cross-checked by independent environmental groups locally and by reliable & independent international monitors. While some of the contentious claims made by D’Enghien are worth correcting.

D’Enghien’s piece states that Malaysia’s forest area today is 22,195,100ha or 67.6% (more than two-thirds) of the land area.  ‘Forest area’ is a dubious term as forest areas area might not have any natural forest in it. The correct term to use is ‘forest cover’. 

He also claims Malaysia’s forest cover, according to Global Forest Watch [GFW], stands at 29,000,000 hectares, an “upward of 80%”. The term used by GFW is ‘tree cover’ and not forest cover. Tree cover describes all trees and vegetation taller than 5m, including palm oil plantations, but palm oil plantations cannot be classified as forest as it cannot match natural forests in terms of carbon storage, biodiversity and maintenance of our precious ecosystems. D’Enghien – an ‘ambassador’ of The Oil Palm, initiated by Malaysian Palm Oil Council (MPOC) – is trying to tell Malaysians we have an abundance of natural forests left when the reality on the ground is different.

A finding by National University of Singapore (NUS) scientists revealed Malaysia had (at best) 45.4% forest cover in year 2010, a loss of 13.2% since 2000. Between those 10 years our country lost an astonishing 45.3% of forest cover on peatland. More recent data shows between 2012 and 2014 our country suffered 484,700 hectares of forest cover loss.

Thus it is extremely misleading and unethical, when the writer claims that Malaysia’sforest loss has effectively fallen to zero.”

Meanwhile, the FRA report states that between 1990 and 2015 Malaysia gained over a million hectares of primary forests, which is highly impossible and contentious considering the rate of deforestation. Our government has possibly reclassified certain areas as primary forests.

D’Enghien invites us, the Malaysian people, to be proud of the FRA report. He suggests we “should look to its findings to challenge the international media and those who intentionally spread misinformation about Malaysian palm oil.” We, as Malaysians, have looked at this report and other reports and found nothing to be proud of. We have lost the Sumatran rhino in Sabah, orangutan & elephant numbers are dwindling, indigenous locals’ lands are stolen for plantations and rampant deforestation, including on peatland, continues. Here is just one example.

Our palm oil industry has helped many Malaysians to make a better living (we don’t mean the opulent corporations). Palm oil is a productive crop but production must not be at the expense of the environment and people.

While the MPOC may be a lobby group for the Malaysian palm oil industry, it has the moral obligation not to mislead the Malaysian public including through greenwashing, which the MPOC will be very familiar with. By all means, extol the putative health benefits of palm oil if you must; but distortions of fact and outright lies are not only ethically unsound, in this case they are also robbing us of our natural home. Malaysia may be “green and growing,” as proclaimed in the title of D’Enghien’s opinion piece, but in this sea of green, we could ultimately die of thirst and polluted air, wiping out Malaysian wildlife along the way.

Upreshpal Singh,

Director, Friends of the Orangutans (Malaysia)

Mardia looking healthier!

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Mardia and her daughter Icha are two Bornean orangutans at the Melaka Zoo in Malaysia. Early last year Friends of the Orangutans provided assistance to this zoo to help them reduce the weight of Mardia, who can be seen as obese in the first photo below (from November 2014). Last month, our visit to Melaka Zoo showed Mardia has lost much weight and is now more active in the orangutan enclosure.

We have also assisted the zoo with their enrichment plans. And so have other organizations. The zoo now provides enrichment to Mardia and Icha. In one photo below both orangutans are seen in a hammock playing with browse.

Obesity, short inter-birth interval and human rearing are some of the factors influencing the longevity of captive orangutans.

 

November 2014:

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December 2015:

ORANGUTANS (5)

 

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Shangri-La Protest Outside Malaysian Embassy in Jakarta

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On Tuesday, 12th January, Indonesian NGO Scorpion Wildlife Trade Monitoring Group and their supporters protested against Shangri-La’s Rasa Ria Resort & Spa exploitation of orangutans, outside the Malaysian embassy in Jakarta! More photos available at the bottom of this post.

Opposition to Shangri-La’s disgusting exploitation is growing. We would love to have you to join our campaign and organize a similar protest in your country. Please email us at info@fotomalaysia for more information.

Remember to sign and share the petition:

https://www.change.org/p/shangri-la-group-stop-the-orangutan-exploitation

Tweet to Shangri-La:

http://ctt.ec/tcDc0

Take a photo of yourself with this poster and send to us at the email above:

http://www.fotomalaysia.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Rasa-Ria-Poster-Campaign.pdf

Thank you for your support, and remember:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” – Margaret Mead.

Together, we WILL win for the orangutans!

 

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Orangutan Caring Week with FOTO

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Friends of the Orangutans (Malaysia) is excited to announce our next event on November 14th and 15th 2015 in Kuala Lumpur.

After the success encountered during the Orangutan International Day on last August 19th, we will renew the experience on the occasion of the “Orangutan Caring Week”. This event is celebrated by all the orangutan’s groups all around the world.

If you don’t have your FOTO t-shirt yet, it’s time to go get one! They will be available to purchase at our booth with other items to give away.

 

Location: 1 Utama Shopping centre Bandar Utama city centre, First floor oval (between Juice Works & Aveda)

Time: 10.00am – 10.00pm

 

Come to join us and show your support on November 14th and 15th, or just to learn more about our beloved friends on this special event.

If you wish to help out on the booth please send us an email at info@fotomalaysia.org.

See you there!

BLD Plantation Continue Destroying Peatland in Sarawak (2016 Update)

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In June last year Malaysian palm oil company BLD Plantation Berhad announced its plans to clear 14,000 ha of carbon-rich peatland in its Sibu’s concession in the next two years. Unless stopped, BLD Plantation will cause further serious environmental damages particularly on the climate, emitting vast amount of carbon dioxyde into the atmosphere in the process.

The executive chairperson of BLD Plantation, Henry Lau Lee Kong, announced that the company had already started clearing activity to develop palm oil plantations, while existing 6,000 ha of palm oil plantations belonging to the company sits on peatland. Less than a week after the announcement US-based agricultural trader Bunge (RSPO member) suspended indefinitely any new commercial activity with Kirana Palm Oil Refinery Sdn. Bhd (Kirana), a wholly-owned subsidiary of BLD Plantation, after a formal complaint by American environmental group Forest Heroes. BLD Plantation is also a supplier to Kirana.

newdeforestationBLD 2001 to 2015

Map of the peat deforestation (red) and degradation (orange) activities in BLD’s concession in the Sibu region between July 2001 and September 2015

Right now rampant peatland clearing is ongoing and the company is now focusing on the northern and center part of the concession while the southern part is already mostly cleared and planted with oil palms. Between 2001 and 2015 (BLD was given license to develop the concession in 2000), over 10,300 ha have been slashed by the company inside the concession. Over 10,300 ha of peat swamp forest that use to be utilized by the local communities for hunting, fishing and planting fruit trees are now gone forever.

P1160875

Cleared land using open burning in BLD’s concession. Young oil palms already planted. At the background stands peat forest that used to occur over all BLD’s concession area before they cleared it.

At the end of August, FOTO contacted BLD Plantation asking them to stop further clearing activities and to adopt a strong and robust ‘No Deforestation, No Peat, No Exploitation’ policy which also covers BLD’s suppliers and subsidiaries and to resolve land grabbing complaints by the local communities. An equivalent area should also be restored to compensate the one already cleared. Until this day we are yet to hear from the company.

peat_depthMeasurement of peat depth in the BLD concession. We recorded a depth of at least 5.2 meters.

A meeting with the Sarawak chief minister Adenan Satem and his delegation has taken place on Thursday 1st of October gathering International organizations Rainforest Foundation Norway, the Union of Concerned Scientists, Center for International Policy, local group SADIA, environmental lawyer Harrison Ngau and Friends of the Orangutans. A formal request has been brought to the chief minister itself, who has previously banned any new conversion of forests into palm oil plantations, to push the company to stop deforesting.

Despite the indisputable evidences of clearing and many attempts to ask the chief minister to stop BLD the company continues to destroy peat forests to plant palm oil. We have not received any reply to our emails to the chief minister’s office.

Furthermore local communities’ NCR (Native Customary Right) lands have been encroached by BLD while the peat swamp forests are trashed…that makes at least two really good reasons to make BLD stop the clearing! One case of land-grabbing by the company on the NCR lands of the Iban from Tutus will be brought to court in February 2016.

FOTO is now focusing on targeting BLD’s financiers and customers. We contacted all the banks for which we have evidences they financed at some point BLD Plantation or one of its direct subsidiary to alert them of the ongoing illegal and unethical activities undertaken by their client and to ask them to promptly address this issue accordingly. We are in contact with Malaysian bank Maybank that we know provided BLD’s subsidiary with over RM 390 Million of loan. They might be BLD’s main banker. In the other hand, with help from Rainforest Foundation Norway we sent out letter to a listing of European and US companies that purchase palm oil products, therefore potential clients of BLD, asking them to review their supply-chain and if sourcing from BLD to stop any activity with them.

You can also read our press releases, links below:

http://www.malaysiakini.com/letters/310974

http://news.mongabay.com/2015/11/palm-oil-company-revs-up-deforestation-in-malaysia/

Updates on Kinabatangan

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Since last July and after 3 months FOTO is still pushing companies for a commitment not to purchase crude palm oil (CPO) from the Kinabatangan areas highlighted by Abram et al 2014 scientific paper titled ‘Synergies for improving oil palm production and forest conservation in floodplain landscapes’. These specific areas have been defined as non productive for agriculture, being in the same time the host land of endemic threatened species as the orangutan and the pygmy elephant for example.

At the beginning of October, FOTO was disappointed to note that most of the remaining companies which we are still expecting a reply from have been difficult to convince in regard to the commitment we asked them. We could establish contact with all palm oil companies but we are still expecting the competent authorities of each of them to manifest themselves on this matter.

Felda Global Venture, Wilmar International, KLK and the IOI Group declared that they will comply with their policies in regard to environmental matters. We are now happy to announce that Kwantas recently declared their commitment towards Kinabatangan’s forests (25,000 ha mentioned in the academic paper) protection!

The Kinabatangan region’s future remains insecure until the 25,000 hectares, partly owned by the Sabah government and partly on NCR lands, are not protected from development. This will be helped by the palm oil companies acting in the region committing to not use palm oil products sourced from the regions pointed out!